The final list of candidates Kern County voters will be able to choose from in this June’s primary election firmed up Friday afternoon.

The filing deadline for most races closed at 5 p.m.

Some last minute entries have turned some races that were looking pedestrian into contests to watch.

A politically connected Republican will challenge Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas. A Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy will challenge his boss, Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

There is a hearty race for Kern County District Attorney.

And there may — or may not — be two dynamic races for Kern County Supervisor.

Here is how the top contests are shaping up.


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield will face a hodgepodge collection of opponents seeking to unseat the powerful national leader in his deeply Republican district.

Three Democrats have thrown their names into the contest.

The California Democratic Party endorsed military wife and political consultant Tatiana Matta, turning a cold shoulder to Wendy Reed, who lost to McCarthy in 2016 by a large margin. Mary Helen Barro, an educator and former broadcaster, is also running in the race. 

Kurtis Wilson of Lancaster originally said he wasn't running under a particular party but the Los Angeles County Elections Office has listed him as a Democrat. 

The Californian was unable to confirm whether two other declared candidates, James Davis of Bakersfield and Johnathan Hall of Tehachapi, Libertarian, had filed the necessary paperwork to make it onto the ballot.


Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, faces a more manageable field of voters.

Only Fresno community development leader TJ Cox, a Democract, plans to run against him this year. 

The 21st District’s demographics’ lean heavily Democratic but Valadao is a moderate Republican who has been able to capitalize on his strong support in Republican Kings County to win the district seat three times.

Still, June’s vote will be a bit of a formality as both candidates will automatically earn a shot at the November general election.


Republican State Senator Andy Vidak, like Valadao, represents a district that leans Democratic.

But in 2014 he handled a challenge from a weak Democratic candidate with relative ease. He has more that $618,000 in his campaign war chest.

This year he’s facing a trio of Democratic challengers.

Abagail Solis, a school board trustee from Earlimart in Tulare County, has launched a run against Vidak.

She’s joined by Sanger Councilmember Melissa Hurtado.

The Californian was unable to confirm whether Farmersville activist Ruben Macareno, who was campaigning for the seat as well, had filed required paperwork.


Bakersfield Republican Shannon Grove is the largest name running for one of the few open seats in Kern County politics this year.

The former Assemblywoman is running for the State Senate seat that will be left open when Senator Jean Fuller terms out at the end of 2018.

She had $497,570 on hand for her race at the end of December and her name recognition in the heavily-Republican district that centers in Kern County is likely to give her a large advantage against two little-known challengers.

Democrat Ruth Musser-Lopez of Needles is running for the seat as well. Republican pastor Gregory Tatum of Bakersfield had also thrown his name into the contest but The Californian was unable to confirm Friday evening that he had completed the necessary paperwork to become a candidate.


A late addition into the 32nd Assembly District race seems likely to transform Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield’s re-election effort into a real contest.

Hanford City Councilman Justin Mendes is a staffer with Valadao and has roots in the Congressman’s strong Kings County political structure.

If he is able to use that structure to good effect, Mendes could make a race of it.

One other candidate, Libertarian Stephen Miguel Cano, has also filed required paperwork to be involved in the race.


Incumbent Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, will face his first re-election challenge in 2018.

Nick Nicita, a progressive Democratic activist, has taken on a tough challenge running against Fong in the deep red 34th Assembly District.

Fong raised more than half a million dollars in 2017 and still has $267,000 in his bank account according to the most recent state campaign finance records.

Those records show Nicita hadn’t raised any money as of the end of 2017.


Two Kern County Supervisors — 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner and 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard — are up for re-election in 2018.

But their contests are in a very strange place right now.

A U.S. District Court judge has invalidated Kern County’s supervisorial district boundaries and has indicated that he is leaning toward requiring those boundaries to be redrawn for this year’s contests.

That could force the county to postpone both Supervisors contests until November and might possibly re-draw Scrivner and Maggard out of the districts that are up for grabs this year.

Right now the outcome of the lawsuit that overturned the district lines is in limbo, pending a settlement conference scheduled for March 28.

But, for now, the June elections for both districts are still on and candidates wrapped up their filing periods Friday. Here’s what the races look like.


Supervisor Scrivner, a Republican, faces two challengers in the June primary election — if it happens.

Rancher Dal Bunn of Keene has pulled papers to run for the seat.

“Remember I’m not a ‘pro’ just a ‘joe’ dedicated to working for all of the ‘joes’ in the 2nd district,” Bunn wrote on his campaign Facebook page.

Another candidate, continuation high school teacher Whitney Weddell, is well known in political circles.

She is the tough-talking leader in the LGBTQ community who has spear-headed efforts for same sex marriage and equality.

And in an 11th-hour filing Friday, Michael Biglay, a parks conservation worker from Tehachapi, threw his hat in the race.


Supervisor Maggard’s race has already gotten a strong dose of drama after Maggard launched accusations that his opponent Jeff Heinle, a Bakersfield City firefighter, was being backed by fellow Supervisor Leticia Perez with the help of the medical marijuana industry.

Perez and Heinle denied the assertions but the lingering conflict and rift on the Kern County Board of Supervisors will provide a backdrop to Heinle’s challenge — especially in context of the challenge to the political boundaries he and Maggard both hope to run in.


District Attorney Lisa Green is retiring from office in 2018, leaving her seat open for a tense contest to replace her between two of her top prosecutors.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman and Supervising District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer have both laid out their credentials for voters in the hopes of taking Green’s spot.


For months it looked like Sheriff Donny Youngblood of Bakersfield was going to sail into a new four-year term without opposition.

But Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman announced this week that he will run against his boss, claiming the Sheriff has been lax on misconduct inside the department and has mismanaged the county’s fiscal crisis, letting street-level deputy staffing fall to unacceptable levels.


Two politically connected Republicans, Deputy District Attorney Chad Louie and Brandon Martin, the Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Couch, will run for the open District 10 seat on the Kern County bench.


Incumbent Judge John Fielder will face a challenge from gang homicide prosecutor H. Cole McKnight in District 14.


Several other Kern County leaders will receive a free ride into another term as no other candidate chose to challenge them. Those leaders are Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow, Kern County Assessor-Recorder Jon Lifquist,Kern County Auditor-Controller-County Clerk Mary Bedard, and Kern County Treasurer-Tax Collector Jordan Kaufman.

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

(1) comment


cool.....cant wait to Vote Blue in 2018 and stop the insanity in the USA's very White House....Vote any shade of Blue and really MAGA

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